Dislocated jaw


The lower jaw is connected to the skull by a joint. Just like any other joint, this one can "dislocate". The bony connection between the lower jaw and the skull base is then completely absent. The joint is only stabilized by the muscles and ligaments.

The result is that the mouth can no longer be closed. One then speaks of a lock jaw. Depending on what the cause of the dislocation is, it also occurs more frequently. The exact technical term is habitual dislocation. The joint head should actually slide in its socket. Here it slips out, but no longer in by itself. It is prevented from doing so by the joint projection.

Read more on the topic: Lock jaw


When the jaw is extremely open, the joint head slides forward in the joint socket. If you exaggerate the opening, it will slide further forward and hop out of the socket. This often happens when yawning, or when biting off a large bite. It can even happen during dental treatment, where you have to open your mouth as wide as possible for a long time.

However, the joints can also be torn from their usual position by external factors. For example in the event of an accident or a firm punch on the lower face. Factors that favor jumping out are stress, psychological problems, loosened ligaments, cramped muscles and much more. Especially in patients with chronic mandibular dysfunction (CMD). The CMD is a disease of the masticatory system with involvement of the temporomandibular joints, the associated muscles, ligaments and surrounding structures. When stressed or mentally stressed, the muscles are often cramped and lead the jaw into unfamiliar and unwanted positions.

Read more on the subject. CMD

Concomitant symptoms

One symptom that can be seen from the outside is that the lower jaw is too far forward like an undershot. So you can no longer bring the rows of teeth properly together. An accompanying symptom of this is that the mouth no longer closes properly. As a compensation, the body begins to produce more saliva. It can then be noticeable that speaking is difficult because, firstly, there is more saliva in the mouth and the jaw is positioned differently.

It is not uncommon for headaches and earaches to also occur. This has to do with the fact that the jaw, neck and head muscles are closely related. For example, when the mouth is very wide open, muscles that are also responsible for the ear are strained. When it comes to pain, there are other symptoms listed.

Pain is a definite companion for a dislocated jaw joint. However, the pain is more likely to occur when the misaligned lower jaw moves. It only hurts when the bones rub against each other or the ligaments and muscles are moved in the wrong direction when trying to perform a movement. If you keep the jaw still, which is of course unusual and uncomfortable in the new position, the pain can be alleviated.

Basically, the muscles and ligaments alone also hurt. On the one hand, because the muscles are mostly tense, and on the other hand, because muscles and ligaments are stretched and overstretched in one direction. Many patients therefore complain of pain after the adjustment. You also feel a kind of sore muscles in the days after.


The diagnosis is actually simple. If pain occurs spontaneously after the jaw has been torn too wide, something too firm has been eaten, then this is usually a sure sign of a dislocated jaw. If the jaw is dislocated on one side, the affected side hangs limply.

If both jaw joints are dislocated at the same time, the affected person can no longer close their mouth. At the latest when palpating, i.e. palpation, the doctor feels that the jaw joints are not correctly positioned. Last but not least, the x-ray, in which you can assess the bony structures, also helps. To rule out other problems and worse, the dentist can do a digital volume tomogram. The temporomandibular joint is X-rayed in three dimensions. The joint disc is easier to assess in this picture.

Which doctor is responsible for the treatment?

The first point of contact should be the family doctor or family dentist. There are many dentists who specialize in the TMJ and the entire jaw system. They also have the skills to straighten the jaw. Real specialists call themselves gnathologists. They also investigate the exact causes related to misaligned teeth or problems in the cervical spine. Depending on where the problem originates from, you will receive a referral to a physiotherapist or chiropractor. Some of these manual therapists also have specific additional training and work closely with doctors.

What to do with a dislocated jaw

If the sudden pain in the jaw does not subside, you should always consult a doctor. If you can fix yourself, you should do this. If not, you can get instructions from the doctor or therapist. Tips for inexperienced patients are: Never try to force the jaw to close again.

To adjust the jaw itself again, place your thumbs on the lower front teeth and hold the jaw in place. To loosen the joint head you have to slowly pull the lower jaw forward and downward. The muscles are loosened and relaxed. Now the joint head can be moved down and back and slides back into its joint socket. In order to rule out more serious illnesses, you should still go to the doctor for a check-up.

In general, a doctor should be consulted the first time it occurs.

Can the jaw be adjusted again itself?

Patients who are more likely to have dislocated jaws usually know what to do. Some can self-medicate. Others may be inhibited or afraid of the pain, but they know who to turn to. If it's happening for the first time and you have no experience of self-straightening, you shouldn't do it either. As soon as you have received instructions from the doctor or therapist and have practiced this several times, nothing stands in the way.

Is a cracking jaw a sign of a dislocated jaw?

No. It's not that easy to generalize. If the jaw were dislocated, it would be impossible to chew or speak as described in the topic of pain above. The cracking noise is caused by the fact that either the intermediate joint disc no longer slips well and jumps into the socket when the joint head moves.

Basically, the cracking noise is pathological, i.e. pathological, and indicates a malfunction. In order to treat these cracking noises, it is important to observe exactly when the jaw cracks. Does it crack when opening or closing, eating or speaking? One should also examine the neighboring structures such as the cervical spine, ear and head.

Osteoarthritis of the temporomandibular joint is a common disease in which cracking noises are sure to occur. The inter-joint disc has worn out with age, so bone rubs directly on bone.

Read more on the topic: TMJ arthrosis


There are several things involved in preventing a dislocated jaw. It is important to take care of your teeth and jaw joint yourself. For example, you shouldn't put too much work on the temporomandibular joint. It's not designed to crack a nut or bite into something inedible. If you experience pain, you should go to the dentist. In the simplest case, you get an individually made bite or relaxation splint. The health insurance usually pays the costs. Patients whose jaw is dislocated more often get their instructions from the dentist and know what to look out for.

Read more on the topic: Occlusal splint